As a student making the hard transition back to in-person learning, I'm wondering what's going to strike first: a COVID outbreak or a school shooting. I'm worried for my school community and for the trauma, the “what ifs" around gun violence are causing.
According to research by Everytown For Gun Safety, from Aug.1 to Sept. 30 of this year, there were 56 incidents of gunfire on school grounds. In 2019, there were 22 incidents in the same time period.
This harrowing number doesn't fully encompass the human loss behind that number. It means more families mourning the gun death of a child — too many of them taken from us in a place that is supposed to protect and nurture us, school.
I love school. It's a place to learn, a place to play, and a place to grow into the adult I'm becoming. But it's scary. Walking onto campus every day wondering if I'll have to send my mom a text that reads, 'Hey I'm scared. There's an active shooter on campus. I just wanted you to know I love you.'
It's a possibility that deeply worries me, and we need people to stand up now to fight against it. We need to pass life-saving laws in our state to protect our children and the people who care for them all day at school. One important step to that is creating a Permit to Purchase law. These laws help keep us all safe by requiring a license to buy a firearm.
I'm worried for our youngest students who have been participating in active shooter drills their whole lives. What are the long-term effects of the 'what if's?' When do we say enough is enough? It ends now.
We have the chance to make sure all of our most vulnerable students are protected so not a single mother, father, grandparent, or friend has to get an 'I just want you to know…. I love you' text. Or the loved ones who won't even get that text because their children were already attacked.
Thoughts and prayers have their place, but now we need action.
We need to step up to the plate and use our voice to advocate for common-sense changes. We need to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities. Studies show that permit to purchase laws lead to reductions in gun homicides, suicides, and the use of the weapons in crimes.
We lose too many precious lives to gun violence every single year — just one death is too many. Yet every single year in Pennsylvania alone 1,574 people die by guns.
We need to demand that our representatives at the state level pass common-sense gun laws like permit to purchase.
As a leader within Students Demand Action, I see gun violence at every turn; as a student on the front lines worried about coming home every day from school, and as an activist standing up to try and pass lifesaving laws.
Because the 'what if's' haunt me every night, distracting me from homework and making me worry about younger generations — if they are going to be the next statistic on a page, or leave behind the next mother to stand up on the floor of Congress imploring our government to take action and pass life-saving bills.
We have the chance to be the voice for the voiceless, the cane for the mourning families, the pillow for the students. Please stand up and demand that the state Legislature listens and passes permit to purchase if not me for your children and all the children to come.
Avery Hamill is a student, activist, and theatre maker. Spending school years worrying about gun violence and the trauma it's causing, they decided to join the anti-gun violence advocacy group Students Demand Action. Though this work he's meet families torn apart by gun violence and turned to theatre, using the arts as a medium to express the way gun violence effects Philadelphia and the country at-large.
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